The AL West in 2015: The Oakland Athletics

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Apr 6, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Fans cheer at Minute Maid Park during a game between the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Monday April 13th brings the Oakland Athletics to Minute Maid Park for the Astros second home series of the 2015 season.  The American League schedule dictates that the Astros will play the A’s nineteen times as part of a seventy-six game schedule against the other AL West teams, making up a little under half the regular season schedule.

The move to the AL has brought with it mixed emotions regarding inter-divisional rivalries. The move brought with it what one might term a “local” derby with the Texas Rangers.  If, of course, you can accept 257 miles and a near-four hour journey as “local”.

Quick quiz: Which current MLB team has the Astros played the fewest games against?

Answer: Toronto, who we have a 12-8 record against, our first win coming in June 2005 with Wandy Rodriguez earning a 4-2 win. For those interested we’ve played the Cincinnati Reds 842 times (going .474).

From the AL West, the Astros have played the Texas Rangers 110 times (43-67), the Seattle Mariners 47 times (24-23), the LA Angels of Anaheim 44 times (20-24) and the Oakland Athletics 44 times (13-31).  The record against the A’s is the third worst against any other franchise (6-17 against Boston and 6-15 against the Yankees).

The nineteen match ups with the Athletics provides ample opportunity to improve on the all-time .295 winning percentage against Oakland, although they lost the 2014 series 11-8 and the 2013 series 15-4.

Oakland finished the 2014 season with a record of 88-74 before losing to the Kansas City Royals in the AL Wild Card game in 12 innings.

Since that loss to KC on September 30, the Athletics have made a number of moves, not all of which would have pleased their fan base.

Sep 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) follows through for his solo home run against the Texas Rangers during a baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

These began late in November, when third baseman Josh Donaldson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Sean Nolin, third baseman Brett Lawrie, pitcher Kendall Graveman and shortstop Franklin Barreto.  A few days later, Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa were traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley, first baseman Rangel Ravelo and utility-man Marcus Semien.

In another surprising departure, catcher Derek Norris and minor league pitcher Seth Streich were sent to San Diego for pitchers Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez.

Infielder Brandon Moss was basically given to Cleveland in early December, although, as ESPN reported, Moss had narrowly avoided micro-fracture surgery in October.  In that ESPN article, General Manager Billy Beane was quoted as saying that:

"We’ve done it before…We’ve had to. The tough thing is you’re talking about players who are really good players for us in a very successful period. It’s tough having to do this every few years but unfortunately necessary."

These trades had apparently drawn consternation from outfielder Josh Reddick who apparently told San Francisco Chronicle reporter Susan Slusser that “This doesn’t make sense to me. We just traded our best player the last 2 years”, in reference to Donaldson.

Susan Slusser tweet reveals Reddick’s unhappiness

Indeed, Comcast Sports Casey Pratt tweeted out this image that told its own story:

Casey Pratt comments on the A’s trades

They reversed this trend of trading away stars, beginning the new year with a huge trade on January 10th, acquiring second baseman Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar from Tampa Bay for minor league center fielder Boog Powell, shortstop Daniel Robertson and catcher John Jaso.  Essentially the trade was Zobrist and Escobar for Jaso, although Robertson is considered a top prospect as Oakland’s 2012 first round selection.  The Tampa Bay Times considered Zobrist to have been “one of the most accomplished and versatile players in club history.”  A two-time All- Star, Zobrist was signed in an attempt to resolve the team’s issues at second base, exacerbated by the free agent departure of Jed Lowrie.

Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh noted that Zobrist fits well in Oakland thanks to his ability to draw walks, is able to switch-hit and can play multiple positions.  Perhaps Billy Beane knew what he was doing all along?

Beane has done this before. Read more from Climbing Tal’s Hill about the previous Oakland rebuild here.

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